Trinidad defends decision not to reopen borders for citizens stranded in Barbados

National Security Minister Stuart Young

The Trinidad and Tobago government is defending its decision not to reopen its borders to accommodate 35 nationals stranded in Barbados. The government insists that the measure is part of an overall effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

As of Tuesday, March 24 Trinidad and Tobago had a total of 53 confirmed coronavirus cases.

“The only way a country has a chance to beat this, to keep the curve down, is to take some of the difficult decisions and the measures we have done on the advice of medical experts,” National Security Minister Stuart Young told a news conference.

 “So whenever we shut our borders, it is not something that we wanted to do, it is not something we take pleasure in doing. But the reason for it is to protect you, the remaining population in Trinidad and Tobago and every person we allow in now presents a risk potentially,” he said.

Young told reporters that he had been in discussions with Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley and her Attorney General, Dale Marshall, on Monday regarding the Trinidad and Tobago nationals.

”I emphasised what our position was and they understood,” he said, adding that Barbados already has in place mandatory self-quarantine or quarantine period of 14 days.

Marshall, speaking on the state-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on Monday night, said that the Trinidad and Tobago nationals arrived in Barbados on that day and they were immediately treated to special protocols.

“The entire machinery of government kicked into operation – the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Tourism and so on. Essentially, it is our responsibility that all Barbadians are safe. This presented some challenges for us in relation to this particular situation.

“Obviously these individuals, having done their travels, intended to go into Trinidad. But the position is that they were not accepting them. We reached out to the government of Trinidad and Tobago during the course of the day to urge that they take their citizens. But the fact of the matter is that they declined to do so,” Marshall said.

“We had to make a humanitarian decision and it was a decision that we felt was principled and correct, ensuring at all times that Barbadians were safe,” Marshall added, noting that his country does not have a legal responsibility to accept individuals other than its own citizens.

“Therefore, technically speaking, we could have denied them landing rights into Barbados, but that would have meant that they would have had to return to England. We had no way of knowing what the situation would be for them in England when they returned,” he said.